Trail Tested: UltrAspire Momentum Hydration Vest
Weight: 7.2 oz
Upon receiving the UltrAspire Momentum Hydration Vest, my first thought was, “Woah—this is light and has very little structure.” To give an idea of the size and structure, this entire vest folds down to the size of a 350ml soft bottle.
It is a small lightweight race vest (7.2oz) that still has enough storage options to carry trekking poles, variable weather gear (gloves, hat, buff and light rain shell all fit comfortably), food, liquids and a cell phone. I see this vest being great for a technical mountain marathon or 50K effort.
Put to the Test:
Once loaded and on my back, the bottles and gear provided additional structure to the vest. The vest clips together with elastic straps and metal hooks. This design was easy to use but I can see it being tricky with cold fingers. Despite not having cinch straps to hold water bottles in, the mesh webbing in the front pockets keeps bottles in securely.
I like the smaller front pockets above the bottle sleeves—one has an easy pull-tab zipper that I used for storing trash and the other has a magnetic close that I see as being very helpful for quick access.
The side pockets fit gels, solid food, a wallet or phone nicely. These pockets are challenging to access because of the size of the vest—it takes a real chicken wing maneuver to access the pocket with the arm on that side.
The rear mesh pockets can store additional hydration or nutrition—I used them to store my hat, buff and gloves while climbing. Neither of the rear mesh pockets have a cinch strap, but again, with the minimalist design, everything stayed in place well. The main rear pocket has an easy-pull zipper tab that made pulling out my rain layer manageable while running. The entire vest is designed to be low-profile so the Houdini jacket I had easily fit over the pack.
The trekking pole carry is the only area of the pack that could be improved. While accessing the lightweight poles and cinching the poles back to the pack while running was manageable, running with the poles on the pack was uncomfortable. The poles attach by two cinch straps and sit just below the pack against the lower back. The straps have to be tightened to prevent the poles from moving and then the tails of the straps swing and tap against the poles. After 60 minutes of running with the poles on the pack, I chose to carry them in my hands to feel the pack without the poles: an overall improvement.
This is a great lightweight pack. Be sure to size appropriately; I am in between a small and a medium and I think the medium would have been a better fit. The design is well thought out and works. If you do intend to use this pack with trekking poles, play around with the straps to limit loose straps flapping about.
— Jeff Colt, an avid mountain runner, lives in Carbondale, Colorado. He seeks trails, tele turns, freshly baked bread and high mountain huts.
First Look: Munk Pack Protein Cookie
MSRP: $17 for pack of 6
When the package of Munk Pack Protein Cookies was delivered to the Trail Runner office, there was a blurred frenzy of activity. Before I could choose a flavor for myself, they were gone.
Not just bored editors in need of something to nibble while scrolling Facebook, these cookie hounds were pumped to try a new healthy snack for the coming weekend’s adventure, be it trail running, climbing or skiing. Without one of my own, I had to ask my co-worker, who snagged my preference, the Double Dark Chocolate Flavor, his thoughts.
“Most ‘healthy’ cookies taste like cardboard,” he said. “But that one tasted like some straight-up Otis Spunkmeyer! [Read: A good thing.] And, after reading the label, I like the mega calories it packs. I hate energy bars, but, I’d stuff my hydration pack with these.”
The vegan Protein Cookies come in four flavors, and pack a punch—each three-ounce cookie contains 18 grams of plant protein and around 350 calories. Additionally, they are non-GMO, gluten free, soy free, dairy free and cholesterol free, and contain no sugar alcohols.
—Megan Janssen is the Assistant Editor of Trail Runner. She is currently cookie-less.
Trail Tested: Xero Terraflex Minimalist Running Shoe
Weight: 8.2 oz (men’s size 7)
What stands out with the Terraflex is its pure simplicity—there are no excessive contraptions built into these shoes. They are light, agile and extremely flexible.
The shoe is comfortable off the bat; I didn’t experience hotspots, chafing or blisters (which usually appear on my pinky toe during long runs). They are exceptionally light and sleek while providing ample room in the toe box. This model stands out because the toes are free to spread out into their natural state, but the shoe lacks the clunkiness that is typically associated with wide toe boxes—sweetness!
They feel a bit like wearing slippers in that there are not any hard curves or shape to them—they are there to do their job, nothing more. The fanciest feature is an adjustable heel strap feature that mimics huaraches by keeping the heel in place if tightened, reducing any unwanted movement or blistering, a huge plus in my book. The fit runs small, so go up a half size.
Features and Function
To use the heel-strap feature, pull the straps on the side of the shoe to your liking, then tighten with the laces.
The tread is not overly aggressive, but great for all sorts of terrain. They performed well over snow, mud, rocky terrain and dirt roads.
Many minimalist or barefoot-style shoes are so thin that you may feel like your feet have been put through a meat grinder after a long run on technical trails. The Terraflex gives enough protection, without relying on unwanted cushion or support.
For minimalist-shoe fans, the Terraflex is a versatile all-arounder for rocky, muddy, snowy or smooth trails. In icy conditions, simply strap on MICROspikes. They also perform well on roads, since the lugs are not aggressive.
The laces are super fat and annoying to tie, but they don’t untie by themselves very easily, so it’s a tradeoff.
These would not be my first pick for highly technical or off-trail adventure running, as these endeavors may require more all-around support.
The Terraflex are not waterproof, but are breathable.
The fit runs small, so go up a half size.
The company has pretty sweet warranty policies: If you wear your FeelTrue® outsoles (or FeelTrue® section of Z-Trail) down to less than 1mm thick at the ball or heel of the foot (not an edge), they’ll replace them with the same product for 60% off MSRP (full, non-sale, listed, retail price) for the product, plus shipping. Xero Shoes are also guaranteed against manufacturer defects for 12 months from the date of purchase.
That saves you money and cuts down on environmental impacts. Xero replacements? I like that.
—Jacky Thompson has been running for nine years. When she isn’t rock climbing, running, foraging or frolicking outside in some way, she can be found practicing yoga, playing music and creating culinary and herbal concoctions.